Last weekend, I attended a seminar on the opposite coast. I had reservations about attending. Would I get anything out of the experience? Would the people I met there get anything out of it? Would the seminar be worth the cost of registration and air travel? Would it be worth the greenhouse gases that I expended to get from my door in Manhattan to the redwood-lined cabin where I’d be bunking for the duration of the seminar?
To every question except the last one, I can answer with a resounding YES. The seminar, the third annual of its kind, exceeded my every expectation and proved to be more instructive and inspiring than those of previous years. I made wonderful new acquaintances, and marveled at how we seemed to have been speaking in the same rare and common language before we’d even ever met. More than once, I was bowled over by the intelligent and thought-provoking things attendees said and did. And after a life lived in the Midwest and the East Coast, I was able to see the redwoods for the first time, and was able to appreciate these gentle stick-straight giants in silent meditation during solo morning walks, and in conversation with fellow travelers and guides during afternoon expeditions. It was remarkable.
But was it worth the wasteful practice of flying? I hope I never have to answer that question. I hope that humanity can cling to science and reason and get ourselves together in the next decade—rejecting fossil fuels, turning to renewables, moving away from diets high in beef and dairy, improving rapid transit systems—so that a roundtrip of this kind doesn’t weigh so heavily on the mind and heart. Or so that a roundtrip of this kind could be made unnecessary—if Elon Musk ever brings his optimistic NYC-LA vactrain into being, about which I haven’t heard anything for several years (and there’s probably several very practical reasons for that, but okay).
I loved this recent seminar. I loved the redwoods that I saw there. I loved the ferns unfurling their new growth, just as they’ve done since before the Jurassic era. I loved seeing the deer and the hawks and the rabbit and the birds I couldn’t identify, having never encountered those species before. And I want to know how to safeguard all of it—the precious discourse with friends and collaborators, the creatures, both living and ancient, this little planet, just a collection of beings each reaching towards the light.